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Wind Turbine Setback Requirements Vary Widely: From 300m to 1.5km

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Underlying the spreading controversy about noise and health effects of wind turbines is the “million dollar question” for wind farm developers: how large a buffer must they leave between turbine towers and homes? In the US, pressure is on local and state authorities who are scrambling to write regulations to govern wind farm development, and many areas have taken the industry’s reassurances to heart, allowing towers as close as 300 meters (1000 feet) from homes. By contrast, Shear Wind, a Canadian wind developer, recently agreed to re-design an proposed wind farm to assure no turbines are any closer than 1.4km (1400m) from a residence. Ian Tillard, chief operating officer for Shear Wind Inc., says the company pored over the letters submitted in response to the assessment and is working to address them. “We’ve taken every single concern to heart,” Tillard said. “We’ve pulled out every concern from those letters and engaged folks to look at the issues.” In Illinois, ten wind towers were removed from the controversial White Oak Energy Center after a settlement between homeowners and the Invenergy Wind, opening the door to construction of the 100-tower project; while part of the agreement was to not disclose the details, we can assume that the developer was responding to concerns about the proximity of towers to homes, and does not want to be held to similar setbacks on a routine basis.

Novia Scotia windfarm
Nova Scotia windfarm

The turbines at the Wisconsin wind farm noted above are required to be 440 feet from property lines and at least 1,000 feet (300m) from homes. Provincial governments in Canada generally call for a 400 meter setback from buildings. On the other end of the spectrum, the National Academy of Medicine in France, suggests much larger setbacks, between 1.5 and two kilometers away from homes and schools. Eric Rosenbloom of National Wind Watch, an information clearinghouse, says noise and health concerns are the top issues in communities considering them. The group recommends 1-mile setbacks from homes. Rick James, an acoustical engineer from Okemos, MI, who has consulted for several municipalities, suggests keeping turbines 1.25 miles from homes. That makes sense to Larry Wunch, a firefighter who lives a few miles from the Meyers in Wisconsin. Turbines encircle his property, and when the wind tops 15 mph, he says, they “just scream.” The closest is 1,100 feet from his house. Wunch says the wind farm has created tension between opponents and those who have them on their property in exchange for annual payments that Dennison says are about $5,000 a year. “It’s really turned our township upside down,” he says. Meanwhile, some localities are aiming for a happy medium that they hope will minimize complaints: a half-mile (800 meter) setback from property boundaries or a slightly less strict half-mile from homes. Surprisingly, even this relatively modest proposal has wind companies complaining that it will drive them away. In Union, Wisconsin, such an ordinance was passed recently, under the assumption that it would prevent the construction of three proposed turbines. Sources: New Glasgow News, 11/2/08 [READ ARTICLE] USA Today, 11/4/08 [READ ARTICLE] (Wisconsin) Daily Reporter, 11/3/08 [READ ARTICLE]Sympatico/MSN Canada, 10/6/08 [READ ARTICLE] (Bloomington) Pantagraph, 10/28/08[READ ARTICLE]
[See AEI Special Report: Wind Turbine Noise Impacts]


One Response to “Wind Turbine Setback Requirements Vary Widely: From 300m to 1.5km”

  1. Karyn Says:

    I wish the Canadian government would be as cautious when it comes to nuclear power plant location as well. We lived 500meters from a uranium processing plant, and now all kinds of contamination of land, housing and people are being found with virtually no inquiries made by the canadian government.